Before we delve into a deeper analysis of the latest social media statistics, I will start by sharing a recent incident that happened while I was on a trip to the United States, as an example of how social media has changed the way brands and companies interact with their customers today.
My return flight itinerary was to fly on Delta Airways (which was a codeshare flight with Virgin) from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and transfer to a Virgin flight in Los Angeles to Melbourne. However, due to an earlier rescheduling of flights by Virgin and a delay by the Delta Airways flight, I was left with just 45 minutes to make my connecting flight, rather than the three hours I was supposed to have, thus increasing greatly the risk of me missing my flight home.
Feeling extremely frustrated at the situation as a customer, I took to Twitter and sent a tweet to Virgin Australia’s official account, @virginaustralia. I received a much quicker response, with more empathy and understanding from their social media team than I did from their ground staff. And what eased my disgruntlement was that when I arrived at Los Angeles, I was greeted personally by a Virgin staff who was waiting for me on the tarmac, and was immediately escorted through to the gate of my connecting flight, without any hassle. While this could have easily turned out to be an ugly situation, with me probably never flying again with the airline or recommending it to my friends, the interaction I had with the social media team at Virgin Australia had instead restored my faith in their customer service.
The moral of this story lies in one of the golden tips about customer engagement on social media - every negative comment is an opportunity to turn it into a positive experience.
So, why is it so important for companies to invest in a solid social media strategy?
Customers use social media throughout their consumer journey, from the pre-purchasing stage to the post-purchase stage.
According to a September 2013 Forrester Report commissioned by Wildfire, a division of Google, 41% of the 1,684 respondents whom they polled stated that they typically discover about new products, brands and services through advertisements on social media platforms, while 33% indicated that their product discovery is driven by reading or posting messages about the products, brands or services that are mentioned on social media.
In addition, the report also indicated that 37% of the respondents polled typically research the brand, product or services through their social network pages, and 52% of those polled stated that they keep in touch with the brands that they purchase or like via the companies branded social networking pages. In both questions, the response towards social media as their medium of choice came in second in terms of percentage share, thus highlighting the importance of establishing a strong social media strategy, to allow companies to best interact with their target audience.
With a concrete social media strategy in place, companies can be confident that their consumers who frequently engage with their brand on social media are more likely to recommend them to others.
Social media engagement is found to be strongly and positively linked to people’s preference for a brand. This means the more they interact with a brand on social media, the more likely they are to purchase from that brand and the more willing they are to recommend that brand to their social networks. As a result, they become more valuable customers and stronger brand advocates.
According to the Forrester Report, “someone who engages in social media with one national retailer in our study has an 82% probability of recommending the retailer to friends, compared with a 65% probability of an individual who does not engage with the brand in social media”. The social media statistics also showed that those who engage with the brand’s social media page on a daily basis rated 9.1 out of 10, on the average likelihood of recommending the brand to others.
As one of the leading full-service digital agency in Melbourne, we are no strangers to helping businesses formulate a relevant and effective social media strategy that will help you better interact with your consumers, which in turn will boost your business.
How can you improve your social media strategy?
Here is a quick guide to applying our social media statistics findings and making your social media channels work to your benefit.
1) Use social media as part of an integrated marketing strategy
Social media is just one part of the marketing puzzle. Social media engagement is highly correlated with acquiring online and in-store purchases, consumer’s participation in loyalty programs, increasing unique visits to your brand’s website and receiving brand communications. To keep your consumers continuously coming back to your social media page, we recommend making a post, which can be aimed at either educating or entertaining, at least once a day. Have your social media team come up with a structured conversation calendar to ensure that your consumers receive timely posts which are useful and can be interacted with.
2) Build a responsive and experienced social media team
No one likes interacting with a non-responding social media team, so ensure that you’ve got a team of people who are quick, and armed with the relevant knowledge and authority to respond directly with your consumers, without the need for multi-level clearances via management.
Your social team is also essentially your front-line customer communication staff, as social channels are the most public and visible channels ahead of any phone interactions. This means they should be the best customer-facing people you have, with great communication and writing skills, and attention to detail. Don’t put interns in charge to save your company the embarrassment or even public humiliation from spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or worse, unintended offense.
A case in point of an inexperienced social media team - American Apparel’s 4th of July gaffe, where instead of putting up an image of fireworks to celebrate the event, the social media team employee had instead put up an image of smoke clouds from the catastrophic 1986 Challenger disaster, in which the American space shuttle has exploded after take-off, killing the seven astronauts onboard. This led to a PR nightmare for the clothing brand, resulting in an eventual release of a statement on Twitter, apologising to its consumers and the public.
3) Create a believable personality
If you are planning to use your social media channels for the standard copy and paste responses and as a platform to advertise, we suggest you rethink your strategy. Consumers who turn to a brand’s social media page want to interact with real people. They are not interested in the same robotic answers for each and every post they make. So be sure that those in your social media team portray a believable personality of your brand, and are genuine in engaging with your consumers while keeping in line with your company’s brand personality and values.
Once you have a solid social media strategy in place for your business, you will be on the way to building better emotional connections with your customers, gaining more loyal followers and creating stronger word-of-mouth. In today’s fast-paced technological world, not investing in a proper social media strategy will only put your company at a disadvantage. So start thinking social!
By Yuan Wang
Yuan is Creative Director and co-founder of Melbourne digital agency Yump. At Yump we understand that social networks and media are rapidly changing the way we communicate about brands. Our social media strategy services encompass content strategy, data analysis, social media policy development, management guidelines development, content planning and social application design and development.